Finished a book and two articles so far; two somewhat disturbing and one very encouraging. M. Shawn Copeland’s article “Body, Representation, and Black Religious Discourse” I found disturbing for several reasons. For a single example, she has actual, chilling quotes from women, or relatives of the women, who were violently sexually abused as slaves.
Like Williams, whose article I reviewed earlier, Copeland is Christian — though she believes reform of the religion and society can be accomplished through the use of sermons within the black church, which emphasize the strength and dignity of the black woman, and the beauty and sacred nature of the body and non-coercive sex. I found this disturbing mostly because the article was written in 2001 — which means it was written a decade after Williams’ article. It would seem, therefore, that though the authors’ goals are similar, there’s been no real progress on changing the public and personal perception of black women for the better. As Copeland points out through an alarmingly perceptive quote from bell hooks (186; italics mine),
When young black males labor in the plantations of misogyny and sexism to produce gangsta rap, white supremacist capitalist patriarchy approves the violence and materially rewards them. Far from being an expression of their “manhood,” it is an expression of their own subjugation and humiliation by more powerful, less visible forces of patriarchal gangsterism. They give voice to the brutal, raw anger and rage against women that it is taboo for “civilized” adult men to speak… The tragedy for young black males is that they are so easily duped by a vision of manhood that can only lead to their destruction.
To me, therefore, it would appear we are failing, since I believe hooks’ statement that feminism’s true goal is to remove oppression — all oppressions. I find myself conflicted, though, since I don’t feel christianity is a viable means of accomplishing this goal. However, as I agreed with a friend during discussion, just because something doesn’t work for me does not mean it can never work. In this case I hope I’m wrong, and Williams and Copeland turn out to be right in their belief that christianity can help set black women truly free.
On the positive side the article taught me a new word: diunital — which verbalizes a concept I very much like. From Abagond’s blog on diunital cognition, which I googled:
Diunital cognition is both-and thinking. Its opposite is dichotomous or either-or thinking. … In diunital thinking you see things in their fullness, as being independent and equal. Different does not mean unequal. Different is just different. In fact, to rank things would require looking at them in a flattened, one-dimensional way that does not tell the whole story. … The aim is not to control or condemn but to understand as fully as possible.
As someone who deeply enjoys thoughtful research and mind-expanding ambiguity — as opposed to simplistic binary thinking which demands dumbing down of complex issues — I really love this concept! Like kyriarchy and rape culture, I feel this is a concept which really needs to become better known, discussed, and understood in our society.
I very much enjoyed reading “En’owkin: Decision-Making as if Sustainability Mattered” by Jeannette Armstrong. This is another concept which I believe would be extremely helpful for us to have in our society. In a nutshell, she offers her Native American tribe’s perspective on community decision making, which involves two stages. The first is asking the people to contribute information on the subject so that a truly broad and well-reasoned decision can be made; the second asks everyone to come up with potential solutions which still keep in mind the various concerns expressed. Everyone is included because, as Armstrong explains, true democracy “is not about power in numbers; it is about collaboration as an organizational system … [which] includes the right of the minority to a remedy, one that is unhampered by the tyranny of a complacent or aggressive majority” (16). As she points out, the rule of the majority is unjust to the minority, and leads to great resentment, division, and hostility.
The process of community decision-making which Armstrong describes involves four social “roles” which are specialties rather than descriptives. They are elders: people who are mindful of both traditions and the connection to the land; mothers: those, male or female, who are concerned with familial and community relationships; fathers: people who ensure shelter, security, and sustenance; and youth: the creative and visionary women and men. It is the responsibility of all participants to do their best to understand, even if they do not agree with, the perspectives of others, since “the minority voice is the most important voice to consider, because it is most likely to tell us what is going wrong, what we’re not looking after, doing, or acting responsibly toward” (16; italics hers). In conclusion, I found Armstrong’s thoughts regarding this form of democracy to be rather hope-inspiring:
I have noticed that when we include the perspective of the land and of human relationships in our decisions, people in the community change. Material things and all the worrying about matters such as money start to lose their power. When people realize that the community is there to sustain them, they have the most secure feeling in the world. The fear starts to leave, and they are imbued with hope. (16-17)
This is a form of ecofeminism which respects not just women and nature, but everyone in the community — including the land itself. I consider this to be by far one of the healthier options I’ve read about to date.